News / Science & Technology

New Test Predicts Which Chemicals Could Cause Cancer

FILE - Soaps containing the antibacterial chemical triclosan on a store shelf at a Minneapolis pharmacy.
FILE - Soaps containing the antibacterial chemical triclosan on a store shelf at a Minneapolis pharmacy.
Jessica Berman

Many chemicals have been linked to the development of cancer, but the cancer-causing potential of thousands of others is unknown. Now researchers have developed a simple test that can identify which chemicals have negative long-term health effects.

There are some 80,000 chemical compounds on the market worldwide. They are used in a wide variety of products from pharmaceuticals and pesticides, to water repellents and fire retardants in fabrics and carpeting. But experts say fewer than two percent of the chemicals in commercial use have been tested for their carcinogenicity, or ability to cause cancer with long-term exposure, because testing is time-consuming and expensive.

Now, researchers with Boston University in Massachusetts have developed what they hope will become a simple and inexpensive test to determine the cancer-causing potential of tens of thousands of chemicals.

“And basically [this] will help both the regulatory agencies as well as the chemical producers ... optimize their production pipeline,” said Stefano Monti, an expert in computational biology and cancer genomics with BU's Bioinformatics Program.

He says investigators, including researchers from the BU's schools of medicine and public health, along with the (U.S.) National Toxicology Program, studied data from laboratory rats exposed for a few days to chemicals known to cause cancer. They noted which genes in the animals' cells switched on and off, and compared the short-term effect of exposure to these chemicals to some 100 safe compounds.

Monti says measuring the impact of limited exposure is a way to gauge a chemical’s cancer-causing potential from the beginning.

“I think that the tools ... we are developing are going to be seen as part of a toolbox that will be deployed in order to actually prioritize what are the compounds that need to be further tested ... because of their potential carcinogenicity, toxicity and so forth,” he said.

The chemicals that were tested included dioxin, a highly toxic environmental pollutant known to cause a wide range of human health problems, including cancer; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a class of chemical compounds linked to increased rates of skin, brain and liver cancer; and bisphenol A, or BPA, an ingredient in plastics and epoxy resins that exhibits hormone-like properties.

Despite a ban on many products containing these compounds, especially in the United States, they are still commonly present in the environment.

Besides the test's predictive value, Monti says researchers want to understand how these compounds actually cause the cellular changes that can lead to cancer.

He also says it’s not known whether short-term changes in genes — as detected in the laboratory — ultimately lead to development of cancer.

Researchers published their findings in the online journal PLoS ONE.

You May Like

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid